Have you ever worked out for a significant period of time and noticed ZERO changes to your body? If you have, it can be one of the most discouraging realizations. After all, getting yourself off the couch and to the gym is a feat of strength on it’s own, never mind if all that hard work isn’t yielding the results you’ve always wanted. The good news is that it’s not a lost cause! Minor modifications to your routine can help ensure your quality time at the gym is being put to good use. Of course, you have to be committed for the long haul in order to see your body change (no miracle fixes here!) but chances are, if you are able to make some of these modifications listed below, you might start to notice results. Just remember, if you are new to exercise or beginning any new exercise regimen (especially if you are not used to regular exercise) it is important to consult with your healthcare practitioner.
- Change Your Routine. Although repeating the same exercises may make them easier to perform, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should keep at it, session after session. In fact, your muscles can adapt to a workout routine anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which means that your workouts may not be as effective as they once were. Changing up your routine is the best thing in order for your fitness level to increase and not plateau.
- Eat Right. To perform better, avoid exercising on an empty stomach, as you likely won’t have the strength to perform at an intensity that will yield results. Be sure to eat breakfast even if your workout is later in the day. Breakfast replenishes your blood sugar and provides the necessary energy your muscles and brain need for exercise. But not just any breakfast will do. Generally speaking, complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruit and legumes) with a little protein and barely any fat will give your body the right fuel it needs for exercise. So try swapping the sugary cereals and pancakes for oats, nuts and fruit, have a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter, or a banana and a glass of low fat milk an hour or so before your routine. Make sure you eat and drink plenty of water before (sometimes during) and after your workout. If you are exercising for more than an hour, consider refueling with carbohydrates during your exercise – a handful of low-fat granola would be a good option. Post-exercise carbohydrates are also needed to rebuild your energy stores in your muscles, especially if you’re workout is intense. When most people think of muscle growth, they think of protein intake. While protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, a high-protein diet isn’t really necessary or recommended for most people when it comes to muscle growth. Strength training and exercise is what’s going to change your muscles. Since your muscles seem to respond to protein intake within 24 hours post –exercise, it’s not really necessary to slam back a protein shake straight after the gym. However, as long as you maintain a healthy diet, that includes protein from both plant and organic animal sources, you’re likely giving your body everything it needs to get in shape. Interestingly, athletes and body builders only need a little bit of extra protein to support muscle growth, and that is often achieved by simply eating more food (healthy, whole food that is!). Other micronutrients of key interest are iron, calcium and vitamin D. Iron deficiency can impair muscle function, calcium is important for growth maintenance and regulation of muscle contraction, and vitamin D has been linked with injury prevention, rehabilitation, and decreased risk of fracture. You may want to consider nutritional supplements to help fill in any nutrient gaps.
- Increase Intensity. We know that just getting to the gym is half the battle, but if you’re not noticing results, it might be time to up the ante by increasing your weights or performing more sets or reps. While it’s nice to catch up with fellow gym mates, use your time wisely by working harder and lifting heavier. Most likely, if you’re able to carry on a conversation while pressing weights, you’re not working hard enough.
- Rest & Recover. While you may be eager to hit the gym regularly (especially while you have the momentum!), be sure to give your muscles proper recovery time. It is recommended to rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group.
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(2) Eating the Right Foods for Exercise. (2017, July 11). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise-eating-healthy#breakfast
(3) Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2017, December 1). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002458.htm
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(5) Strength Training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier. (2016, April 22). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/strength-training/art-20046670?pg=1
(6) Variety is the Spice of Fitness: Diversify Your Workout. (2016, May 10). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/variety-spice-fitness-diversify-your-workout
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